That’s easier said than done, first of all the problems with the Obamacare introduction is much bigger than the website despite what the progressive pundits are saying, there is still the issue of the President’s lie and people losing the plans they liked, then there is the sticker shock of the exchange plans and the doctor shock of the new plans having fewer doctors on their networks.
The other issue, especially for Senate Democrats in red states, is the fact that they backed Obamacare at all. The bill was unpopular in their states even before the failed introduction.
But for Senate Democrats who backed the unpopular legislation, avoiding the subject isn’t so easy. Republicans are armed with reams of polling data showing how the health care law could overturn the Democrats’ majority, and are already hitting vulnerable Democrats on the subject. Indeed, Democrats who voted for the law face a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t crisis: flip-flop on legislation they actively embraced or tie themselves to an increasingly unpopular law that could doom their reelection prospects.
Right now, the Democrats are praying that healthcare.gov will be working by the end of the week as promised. But the warning signs of failure are there, as the White House has been inching back from their promise that the site will be all fixed by the end of November (the latest estimate is 80% fixed but most observers believe that wont happen either).
As Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal points out Democratic Senators in shaky seats are springing into to action:
Some of the most vulnerable senators, like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Begich of Alaska, have proposed their own fixes to the legislation designed to inoculate them from blowback with their conservative constituencies back home. Even Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, a loyal ally of the president’s on health care, suggested he could support a delay in the individual mandate if the website still isn’t working in short order by the end of November.
They’re all echoing the line Democratic campaign officials are privately urging their members to take: stress the promised benefits, offer constructive criticism, and hope their constituents are patient enough to sustain them through the rocky rollout. Some may even call for more aggressive oversight of the law’s implementation. But it’s an open question whether that political line will be sustainable if the health care exchange website is still dysfunctional heading into next year, and an older, sicker insurance pool could mean a “death spiral” of ballooning premiums for 2015. In a telling sign of the White House’s longer-term political fears, the administration delayed the second round of open enrollment for one month—to occur right after the 2014 midterms.
But voters know there is a big difference between taking a stand to fix a problem and flip-flopping for political expediency.
Kraushaar reports that
Race-by-race polling conducted over the last month has painted a grim picture of the difficult environment Senate Democrats are facing next year. In Louisiana, a new state survey showed Landrieu’s approval rating is now underwater; she tallied only 41 percent of the vote against her GOP opposition. In Arkansas, where advertising on the health care law began early, Sen. Mark Pryor’s approval sank to 33 percent, a drop of 18 points since last year. A new Quinnipiac survey showed Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, who looked like a lock for reelection last month, in a dead heat against little-known GOP opponents. Even a Democratic automated poll from Public Policy Polling showed Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina running neck-and-neck against Republican opposition, with her job disapproval spiking over the last two months. These are the types of numbers that wave elections are made of.
The party of a sitting President usually does poorly in second term mid-term elections. Results are even worse when the President’s approval is in the tank, and as the latest polling has shown the Obama’s ratings are near record lows.
Indeed, there’s a growing sense of fatalism among Democrats. Even as strategists are advising their clients on how to best talk about health care, they badly want to change the subject and hope that the problems go away. On that point, the White House and congressional Democrats are on the same page.
“If the election were held today, Republicans would probably win back the majority,” said one longtime Democratic operative tracking internal Senate polling. “But we know for sure the election would not be held today.”
In the end the question of who will control the senate beginning in January 2015 rests upon how well the Republicans can force the Democrats to explain their support of Obamacare and how well the Democrats can run away from the President’s signature legislation.